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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

The Children of Rafah

Passages from The Children of Rafah


The sun on a conqueror's bayonet was

A naked corpse despised:

Bleeding silence

Over rancorous prayer beads amidst

Bold-congested faces

An occupier with legendary features


“Aren’t you going to speak?

Fine: Upon you then a curfew will be imposed as of . . .”

Aladdin’s voice splintered:

the birth of the birds of prey,

'I threw the stones at the military


distributed the leaflets and gave the signal;

I painted the slogan

carrying a brush and a chair

from a neighborhood . . . to a house

. . . to a wall;

I also gathered the children

And we swore

By the exile of the refugees,

to resist

As long as a conqueror’s bayonet

shines in our street.”

Aladdin was no more than ten


The acacia trees are crushed

And the gates of Rafah

Are sealed with sorrow

Or with wax

Or a curfew

(The girl had to take bread and

bandages to a wounded man that

returned after midnight She had

to cross a street overwatched

by the eyes of the strangers

the wind and the mouths of guns. )

The acacia trees are crushed

and like a wound,

a door of a house in Rafah was opened.

She leaped.

Landing in the lap of a jasmine tree;

Once on the sidewalk of terror

A palm-tree was her shelter

cautiously...with every footstep

now jump...

A patrol,

Flashing lights,

A cough

“–Who are you,


Five guns were fixed at her

Five guns.

In the morning,

The invader’s court was called

They brought her in:


"The criminal"

A child of eight.

-- Samih al-Qasim

Poem first published translated into English in 1973.

Samih al-Qasim was a Palestinian poet and a member of the Israeli Communist Party. He died in 2014.



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